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A Wine Fair Reimagined + Braised Rabbit with Alsatian Dumplings #DrinkAlsace #Winophiles #Sponsored

  This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace*. 
Complimentary wine was provided for this post though no other compensation was received. This page may contain affiliate links.


I was invited to take part in a Millésimes Alsace Digitasting® focusing on the winemakers and wines of the Alsace region of France. It is a wine fair reimagined by the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace*. So, I explored the participating wineries, selected my sample boxes and waited. When the samples arrived from France, I hopped on the website and booked my appointments which were fifteen minute blocks with the winemakers. Because of the time difference between California and France, I scheduled to get up early to catch them in the later afternoon.

But the timing for this fair was serendipitous because the French Winophiles were planning a look at the wines of Alsace with Rupal, The Syrah Queen, leading the discussion. You can read her invitation here.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to jump into our Twitter chat. We'll be live on Saturday, July 17th at 8am Pacific time. Simply follow the hashtag #Winophiles and be sure to add that to anything you tweet so we can see it. And stay tuned for our posts later this week.

Here are the other posts...
To Alsace

Alsace, due to its location on the border of Germany and France, has been subject to a series of political tug-of-wars for years and years. Here's what I mean: at the end of the Thirty Years' War, in the mid-17th century, Alsace was given to France. Nearly 250 years later, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Alsace was seized by Germany. Post-WWI, it was once again part of France...until 1940 when Germany reclaimed it. And, finally, with the end of WWII, Alsace became French again and has stayed so ever since. You can see the effects of this on-going conflict in the languages spoken, the architecture, the cuisine, and the wine.

from winefolly.com

Wine production in Alsace can be traced back to the Roman Empire. And nearly 90% of all Alsatian wine is white with the principal grapes being Riesling, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewurztraminer or Gewürztraminer; Alsatians prefer it without the umlaut, Germans use the umlaut. 

Millésimes Alsace Digitasting®

I was a bundle of nerves on the day of my appointments since I haven't read, written, or spoken French in over three decades! I was confident that I could understand them, but had no idea how I was going to express myself...much less use wine terminology or phrases that I definitely didn't learn in my high school French class. Still I poured myself a cup of coffee and settled in. 


To my great relief all of them were able to communicate with me in English with the exception of one winemaker whose wife spoke English for the both of them. However, I know he was probably in the same boat as I was because when I asked, in English, what he would serve with the wine, he answered without hesitation - poisson. 'Fish,' I confirmed, and he smiled.

On one hand, this certainly was not the same as wandering through an exhibition hall, listening to the din of conversations at various stalls, hearing corks popping out of bottles, and the general atmosphere of excitement as you wander and explore different winemakers' creations. On the other hand, at those trade events, I have rarely spent more than a few moments chatting with the winemakers. So, a fifteen minute block that was dedicated to just me and them was actually quite a treat. And a few sent presentations ahead of time so I could read about their history and learn more about them ahead of time.


I met with five winemakers or representatives from Domaine Sohler Phillipe, Domaine Bott FrèresDomaine Camille Braun, Domaine Saint Remy - Ehrhart, and Domaine Bernhard & Reibel. And while I would have loved to write posts shining the spotlight on each of them, it was challenging to pair and really taste from the mini samples that we received. But I was grateful for the chance to chat with them all and will definitely begin digging into how to source these wines here to give then a real taste. I will give a few brief facts and comments about each domaine just to whet your palate.


Marine and Lydie are the first one hundred percent female generation of Domaine Sohler Phillipe. Located in a small village, Nothalten, between Haut-Koenigsbourg and Mont St-Odile, their winery covers 11 hectares and went through a conversion and certification to organic in 2018. They grow seven different Alsatian grape varieties including Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, and Sylvaner. Our discussion of the Muenchberg Grand Cru - a Riesling - had my mouth watering. When I tasted it, later, I noted a layered bouquet with a distinct smokiness intertwined with crisp green apple aromas. This was a rich, fleshy wine with lots of minerality and structure. Lydie had mentioned pairing this with something in a saffron cream sauce. I can't wait to try that.

Domaine Bott Frères is in the seventh generation of the estate that was founded in the early 19th century. Their estate is comprised of 18 hectares that surround the house. On that land, they grow seven different varieties of Alsatian grapes. They converted to organic practices in 2019. She and I talked about their small production Muscat. Well, we talked about a lot of wines, but I think her characterization of their Muscat as a capricious wine from a complicated grape intrigued me. that and that Muscat comprises just 3% of production in Alsace. Now if I can only get my hands on a bigger bottle and some of that white asparagus she mentioned...I'll be a happy girl.


I chatted with Chantal and Christophe of Domaine Camille Braun. The Braun family has been in Alsace since the late 16th century and has been passed from father to son since its inception. In 1987 Christophe joined the business and has doubled the acreage of the winery as well as getting certified organic is 2005 and certified biodynamic in 2017. Domaine Camille Braun is located in Orschwihr, a village in the south of the Route des Vins d'Alsace. They offer wines from the following terroirs: Pfingsberg Grand Cru, Bollenberg, Lippelsberg, and Buchrod.

I loved the lore of Bollenberg Hill and Sainte Croix Chapel, which is also known as the 'witches chapel where every year during the night August 14th to 15th, the village’s inhabitants celebrate the 'Haxafir' (the witches’ fire) when a witch doll is lit aflame on a pyre. But it was their 2019 Gewürztraminer that intrigued me. Vin Orange, Lune Rousse was on the label. Orange Wine, Red Moon. I have always loved skin-fermented wines that have that characteristic orange or copper hue. This one, which macerated for 10 days, then fermented in wooden tanks with old yeast, smells strongly of rose with a lychee forward flavor on the palate. It was deliciously exotic. And, I know I keep saying this, but I would have loved to have a full taste of this wine for pairing!

One theme that kept coming up throughout all of these meetings was family - the length of time a family had been in Alsace, wineries being passed down from one generation to the next, etc. And Domaine Saint Remy - Ehrhart was no exception. The estate has been in Margot's family since 1725. And they honor their family members by naming wines and vintages after them. For example, she lent her name to the 2017 Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives Cuvée Margot and the 2019 Riesling JADE is named after her niece.

The estate has been certified organic since 2010 and certified biodynamic since 2011. All of their grapes are hand-harvested and I loved hearing about how they use nettle tea as a natural fertilizer for their vines.


My last appointment of the digitasting was with Pierre of Domaine Bernhard & Reibel. The estate is nestled in the heart of Alsace, at the foot of the Haut-Koenigsbourg castle. In 1981, Cécile Bernhard merged the wine estates of the Bernhard de Châtenois and Reibel de Scherwiller families; and in 2001, Cécile handed over the reins of the estate to her son Pierre. He and I talked the most about food pairings as I suspect he's an accomplished cook as well as a winemaker! Pierre has been certified organic since 2000 and certified biodiverse since 2004 with the ECOCERT label.

Pierre was the only winemaker who insisted that I open up the sample of his wine while we were online together. I assented and opened up the 2019 Pinot Noir Sans Soufre, Pinot Noir without sulfites. It was peppery and dry, a beautiful example of this grape. Later in the day, I tried his Pinot Gris Hahnenberg 2019 and Riesling Hahnenberg 2018.

This was a truly wonderful way to experience so many different Alsatian wines. It's a shame that many of the wineries do not have distribution in the United States. I'll keep my eyes open until I can get my hands on these bottles.

Braised Rabbit with Alsatian Dumplings

I wanted to make a braise with Alsatian dumplings. Note: I added fennel pollen to my Alsatian dumpling which is not a traditional ingredient. But I wanted to mirror the licorice notes from the fresh fennel in the rabbit. If you aren't a fan of fennel, swap carrots for the fennel in the stew and skip the fennel pollen altogether. However if you're up sometime non-traditional, I liken fennel pollen to a culinary pixie dust.

Ingredients

Rabbit
  • 2 pound rabbit
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups fennel bulb, trimmed chopped
  • 2 cups onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • sprig of fresh thyme
  • water and/or stock (I used a homemade beef broth)
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Alsatian Dumplings
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinch of fennel pollen
Procedure

Rabbit
Brown the rabbit in a splash of olive oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Cook it for 2 minutes on each side to get a nice brown color. Add in the rest of the ingredients, making sure the rabbit is about halfway submerged in liquid. Bring it to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Braise for 2 hours. 


Remove the rabbit from the liquid and let it cool enough that you can handle it. Pull the meat from the bone and reserve the bones for making stock. Return the shredded meat to the pot and bring it back to a simmer. In the meantime, make the dumpling batter.


Dumplings
Beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Cream butter until lightened and fluffy, then, beat in egg yolks. Gradually stir in flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg, fennel pollen, and stiffly beaten egg whites.

Shape in small balls - I use a truffle scoop -  and drop into boiling, salted water. Simmer, covered, for approximately 5 minutes; take care not let dumplings boil or they will fall apart. Gently remove the dumpling with a slotted spoon and place them on top of the simmering rabbit stew. Remove from heat and cover until ready to serve.

Merci Beaucoup!
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*Disclosure: I received compensation in the form of wine samples for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Comments

  1. Another fun article, Cam! Love how you captured your video tastings with the Alsace producers! You did a terrific job!

    ReplyDelete

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